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Exploration of the colorful counterculture of Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. Narrator: Jean Shepherd. Director, producer and screenwriter: Stewart Willensky. Beat life-avant-garde poetry and music: Charles Mills.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: Wilensky (Stewart)
Audio/Visual: Sd, C
Keywords: New York City: History; Counterculture; Bohemianism
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: Soothing and Innocent
Did you run out of Prosac? No worries, just watch this short film. It'll smoothe away all the wrinkles of your worried mind. It's images of Greenwich Village in the 1960's seems very authentic. The Village is portrayed as innocent (which it mostly was) and varied (which it most certainly was). Except for a brief beat poem, the sound of the short is a combination of the narrators calming voice and a bizarre (yet soothing) jazz-flute and guitar soundtrack.
Highs: It could relax a comodities trader.
Lows: Not really gripping.
Subject: Deb's Nostalgie de la Boue
This interesting film-- whom was it aimed at?-- depicts a young debutante as she dallies dangerously on the fringes of beat society.
She wears a demure striped separate set with a peter pan collar, telling us that she is from "somewhere else", and her parents would likely kill her if they knew she was rubbing elbows with this artsy riffraff.
A Neil Diamond-looking tough with a greasy D.A. and a folk guitar on his back seems to be stalking her all over the Village. They never quite hook up, though.
No mention, of course, is made in this 1960 film, that Greenwich Village was a mecca for gays and heroin addicts-- even in 1960. A black guy rates a moment in this film's spotlight-- but no queers!
It's interesting to me how, even though Greenwich Village was meant to be "artsy", that everyone's clothing in this film is so drab-colored... most people are wearing neutrals and monochromes. No wonder "The Sixties" had to happen.
If you don't know about Jean Shepherd, check out his (now vintage) radio shows.
Subject: A vanished Greenwich Village
In this film we follow a prim young woman in white gloves as she explores Greenwich Village on a Sunday afternoon. She walks off the Fifth Avenue bus at Washington Square and straight into a "hootenanny." This is a corny, but charming look at the Village in the early sixties in the transitional period between the "beat' generation and the rise of the later sixties counter-culture. The best scenes are when we actually hear the folksingers singing bluegrass tunes around the Washington Square fountain and the beat poet reading in a grubby coffeehouse. These scenes have real documentary value. The film's use of actors to try to create a story gives it an amateurish feeling, but that same amateurism is what also gives the film its charm. It was nice to see the old Italian Greenwich Village with the street market and the stickball and bocce players, who are now long gone. The Greenwich Village portrayed here looks like a shabby, tolerant place where ordinary people could afford to live. Alas, that is no more.
Christine Hennig -
Subject: Ooh, look at all them hippies!
This laid-back early-60s film shows us street life in Greenwich Village on a Sunday. We see such things as sidewalk art displays, folksinging in the circle, and beatniks reciting poetry. This definitely brings back a memorable time and place, giving us a glimpse of the birth of the 60s counterculture. One rather silly aspect of the film is a prim woman in a striped dress and little white gloves who appears in almost every scene and reacts to things as if she was on Mars (though with a smile on her face). This film could have perhaps had more content to it, but then it wouldnt have been as laid back as a Greenwich Village Sunday.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Subject: Great Pictures, Dull Narration
I was excited when I read that the great Jean Shepherd was the narrator. He was among the hippest men in America in 1960. However in this film all he does is read the rather square travelogue type script and that's disappointing. However I really enjoyed the scenes shot in Washington Square Park where the folkies hung out singing their silly songs. The beat poet Ted Joans was kind of cool too.
Subject: I'm hep to that!
An interesting overview of 1960's New York (more specifically Greenwich Village). This film has the mood down pat, with the banjos, bongos and the hip language of the period. It takes us on a tour of everyday practices then (oh, maybe it hasn't changed) taking us through art exhibitions on the street, men playing bocce (sigh) and other sights. Although pretty much filled with interesting locals, I REALLY with they didn't include the obviously eyesore actors, who stick out like a sore thumb. But other then that, a highly enjoyable film! Reccomended!